Learn the Reasons Behind the Rules
Harvey Stanbrough’s Writing Seminars
To receive the formal announcement of these seminars, or if your writers’ group would like a presentation, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put Seminar in the subject line. For the venues and the current schedule of events, please see Events next door. I provide coffee and light snacks at all seminars. For the daylong seminars, we break for lunch and reconvene at an agreed-upon time. The actual lunch is on your own.
Note: Of necessity, I strictly reserve the right to refuse admission to anyone at any time for any reason.
Half-Day Seminars—These seminars last 3 to 5 hours and cost $30.
Core I: Writing Realistic Dialogue I & II (Extended Seminar)—This extended seminar is a complete course on writing dialogue. It includes the elements of dialogue; the use of narrative bits in the form of tag lines and brief descriptive narratives; the wise combination of sentences and sentence fragments to construct the give-and-take flow of natural dialogue; and a segment on punctuation for writers. You also will learn to convey the emotions of the characters and subliminally manipulate the mood and emotions of the reader to maintain suspension of the reader’s sense of disbelief. Includes a limited discussion of the sounds of letters and words as they relate to conveying emotion; the importance of spontaneity; and four in-depth, specific techniques for conveying emotion with your dialogue. Includes a student handout and the opportunity to purchase the paper edition of Writing Realistic Dialogue & Flash Fiction and the out-of-print Punctuation for Writers at a reduced rate. 4 to 5 hours.
Core II: Creating Realistic Characters—What causes the reader to immediately recognize and identify with a character type? What makes the individual character stand out from other, even similar characters? Why should the dialogue of “cardboard” or “flat” characters be more colorful than that of other, more important characters? Here you’ll learn to assign the character traits, quirks, and idiosyncracies that enable your characters to come to life for your reader! Includes a list of character traits. Includes a student handout and a free ebook, Creating Realistic Characters. 3 to 4 hours.
Core III: Writing Dialect—The old wisdom on writing dialect is a paradox: Many say until you know how to write dialect well, you shouldn’t write it at all, but how can you learn to write it well unless you practice? In this class you’ll learn to write dialect like a master, which is to say you’ll learn to think your way through it, the best way to apply the various vocal inflections given the character, the character’s mood, the circumstance, etc. Includes a comprehensive list of suggested words and spellings to use when writing dialect as well as rationale for and against using phonetic spellings, truncated words and altered syntax, how much dialect is too much, etc. Includes a student handout and a free ebook, Writing Dialect. 3 to 4 hours.
Core IV: Narrative in Fiction: Whispers from the Background—Does your narrator get mouthy, overstep his bounds? Does he act on an urge to make social commentary that has nothing to do with the story line? Does he judge the characters and comment on their morality or on the situations in which they find themselves? Does he go beyond his authority to comment on behalf of one or more characters? Does he wander off into “baggage narrative” that bogs down the current story line? Does he blur the line between narrative and a character’s internal monologue or unspoken thoughts? Being a writer is difficult enough without putting up with a narrator like that. And what if your narrator is also a character? Is he different in the different roles? Is he aware of the restrictions of Point of View? Come to this seminar and learn, for once and all, how to make your narrator understand his role, that you’re the boss and he’s the employee. Learn for once and all how to make him sit down and shut up, or at least stay out from between the characters and the reader. Turn your narrator from a bouncer who’s looking for any excuse to throw your reader out of the story to a matre de who welcomes the reader warmly, then all but disappears. Includes a free ebook, Narrative in Fiction: Whispers in the Background. Note: We will go far beyond the limits of the ebook before this one is over. 3 to 5 hours.
Core V: Self-Editing for Writers—Includes a section on punctuation for writers (how the various marks of punctuation directly affect the reader) and a thorough, in-depth presentation regarding the errors I see most often in manuscripts I edit: includes erroneous use of quotation marks and single quotes, myths about punctuation and passive voice, paragraphing, erroneous word choices, etc. This one seminar will dramatically improve all of your writing. Includes a student handout and a free ebook, Self-Editing for Writers. 3 to 4 hours.
NEW! Emarketing & Social Media—Learn why an Internet presence is essential even to sell your paper books. Learn to create and use a basic website that includes a blog, an author page, and a book page. What’s the most effective blog topic for an author? The answer might surprise you. Learn to establish and use the various social media, which ones are worthwhile and which ones to avoid and why. Is Twitter really a b’jillion times more effective than handing out bookmarks and postcards? This is an essential seminar for anyone who is serious about marketing themselves and their work. Includes a student handout. 3 to 4 hours.
NEW! Writing Creative Nonfiction—Learn to create mental movies; definitions and uses (and overuses) of simile and metaphor; the use of action verbs, adjectives and adverbs; using narrative as quasi-dialogue; punctuation for writers; various types of formal and informal essays; various techniques to organize your thoughts and map your creative nonfiction; and common snags in writing narrative. Includes direct narrative voice (addressing the reader directly without being a putz). A lot of strong narrative tips in this one, including the natural tense for narrative, what writing instructors really mean when they say “Show, don’t tell,” and how to immediately recognize (and repair) “passive” constructions. All of this and more. Includes a student handout. 3 to 4 hours.
TAPO I: The Philosophy of Observation—This seminar provides a basic understanding of our relative place in the world, including illumination of the societal, physical and emotional veils with which we all contend and beyond which most of use cannot see, hear, smell, etc. Knowing our relative place informs our sense of connectivity and changes our perspective—our primary vantage point—as observers. That change of perspective is necessary if we want to observe the world without bias. What is observed without bias can be created without bias, cleanly, clearly and intimately. The reader will sense your intimate connection with creation and be that much more engaged with your writing. We must learn to sense and respect the essence of other animates and inanimates. Most importantly, in the perceived absense of that essence, we must learn to err on the side of respect. Ignorance of a fact does not negate the fact itself. This seminar includes notes and discussion on trust, on searching less and receiving more, and on sensing our connection with what we observe and our place in the grand scheme. Includes a detailed student handout. 3 to 4 hours.
TAPO II: The Art of Observation—In this seminar, we learn to sense beyond the societal, physical and emotional veils and practice intimate observation. This intimacy is what enables your reader to see what you’re seeing, hear what you’re hearing, feel what you’re feeling (physically and emotionally), etc. In this intensive session, we identify the veils and learn various techniques for sensing beyond them, including special focus on exercises to hone the physical and emotional senses. Includes a discussion of the states of consciousness and a relaxation exercises. Attendees should expect to have their writing spirit revived. This seminar has taken a spiritual (not religious) bent for some. Includes limited guided practical application. Includes a detailed student handout. 3 to 4 hours.
The Essentials of Digital Publishing (Overview)—A 3-4 hour overview of the subject. Includes the main points of epublishing preparation and submission. Does not include cover design. Includes a student handout and a dollars-off coupon for the book. 3 to 4 hours.
Writing Great Beginnings & Writing Flash Fiction—Write a complete short story with characters, setting, conflict and resolution in 99 words or fewer. Caution: writing flash fiction can become an addiction. In the second part of this seminar, we’ll discover how to grab the reader from the first sentence of your story or novel or memoir. We’ll explore ways to turn a phrase, look into dramatic, emotional, and dramatic-emotional sentence structures, and learn techniques that will not drag the reader into the story, but have him leaping into the story of his own accord. Includes dozens of examples from published and unpublished manuscripts from known and unknown writers. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own opening lines and/or examples they particularly enjoy. Includes a student handout and two free ebooks, Writing Great Beginnings and The Art of Writing Flash Fiction. 4 to 5 hours.
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Daylong Seminars—These seminars last 6 to 8 hours (with a lunch break) and cost $70.
Notes from Writing the World—This is a catch-all. Includes discussion of writing narrtive in fiction, creating realistic characters, writing dialect, writing great beginnings, writing flash fiction, self-editing for writers and the seven writerly sins. NOTE: Does NOT include Writing Realistic Dialogue, Writing Poetry, or The Essentials of Digital Publishing. Those topics are presented separately. See below. Includes a student handout and a free ebook, Notes from Writing the World.
Writing Poetry—Poetic techniques that are characteristic of all well-written poetry, no matter the sub-genre. The poet’s task is to relate the poem itself and convey the spirit of the poem. Topics include the use of meter or not; the use and purpose of particular line lengths and line breaks; purposeful word choice; stanza use and construction; end and internal rhyme, either, or neither; definitions of free verse, blank verse, and various traditional forms; the use of punctuation in poetry; and the nuances of our beautiful language. Includes a student handout and a free ebook, The Craft of Poetry: Structure & Sound. Includes a reading for particpants, time allowing.
The Essentials of Digital Publishing—Manuscript preparation for submission to Smashwords and how to create an attractive ebook cover. Step by step manuscript preparation including screenshots, how to create an interactive table of contents (not with Word’s TOC feature), and several other notes and tips. Cover design section includes step by step instructions for changing the color and texture of your stock cover photo, adding and adjusting stylized text, and using the Print Screen feature on your PC and the Paint program to create your own JPG files. Includes how to size the cover for Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others, how to create a thumbnail image, and more. Also includes a section on marketing, social networks and much more. Includes a student handout and a free copy of The Essentials of Digital Publishing.
The Art & Philosophy of Observation (TAPO: Two Day Seminar/Retreat)—Three solid concepts comprise the structure of this retreat: First, there is the Philosophy of Observation—the rationale that underlies and provides a solid foundation for practical application. The Philosophy of Observation provides a basic understanding of our relative place in the world. Knowing our relative place in the world changes our vantage point as observers. That change of vantage point is necessary if we wish to observe that world without bias. What is observed without bias can be created without bias, cleanly, clearly and intimately. We must learn to sense and respect the essence of other animates and inanimates. Most importantly, in the perceived absense of that essence, we must learn to err on the side of respect. Ignorance of a fact does not negate the fact itself. Notes and discussion on trust, on searching less and receiving more, and on sensing our connection with what we observe and our place in the grand scheme. When the student has accepted (even if skeptically) the basic tenets of the Philosophy of Observation and chosen to practice those tenets, s/he has the necessary basis to begin learning the Art of Observation.
Second, in the Art of Observation, we learn to sense beyond the societal, physical and emotional veils with which we all contend—is essential to the ability to write intimately. This intimacy is what enables your reader to see what you’re seeing, hear what you’re hearing, feel what you’re feeling (physically and emotionally), etc. In this intensive session, we identify the veils and learn various techniques for sensing beyond them, including a special focus on actually honing the physical and emotional senses. Discussion of the states of consciousness, including relaxation exercises.
Third, there will be some guided practical application of the Art of Observation and time for unguided practical application. There also will be time for formal fellowship and sharing of experiences with intimate sentience. Toward the end of this retreat and beyond, all will be welcomed and encouraged to convey whatever sense-opening experiences they’ve witnessed or in which they’ve taken part during or even after the seminar. This seminar has taken a spiritual (not religious) bent for some.
Attendees should expect to have their writing spirit revived. Includes a detailed student handout.
Note: The instructor will provide all student handouts indicated above in class on the day of the seminar. Students will be able to download the free ebooks after the seminar.
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Possible Future Seminars
If you have thoughts on the desirability of these, let me know.
NEW! Writing Literary Fiction (or, Hey! Where You Goin’ With My Tension?)—Extended description coming soon. I will offer this one only when I have a demand for it. Hint: The tension’s still there, in spades. 3 to 4 hours.
NEW! Conflict & Resolution—Regardless of the length of a fiction, regardless of whether it has a “beginning, middle and end,” it isn’t a short story, a novella or novel unless it contains these two elements: conflict and resolution. Extended description coming soon. 3 to 4 hours.
NEW! Writing Magic Realism & Writing Science Fantasy—Extended description coming soon. I might split this into two separate seminars, or I might make it one daylong seminar (or I might do both). 3 to 4 hours each or 6 to 8 hours.